Friday, March 21, 2014
Contact Sandy Sutton
WIFA Staff

Contact AZAGC
An Interview with Sandy Sutton, Executive Director  
Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA) is an independent state agency founded in 1992.   
 
What does your company do?

SS: WIFA finances important water infrastructure projects at the best rates available (2.76% was the average 20-year term interest rate for governmental entities last year). We help pay for pipes, treatment plants, tanks, wells and other infrastructure needed to provide safe drinking water and proper wastewater treatment in Arizona's communities. We can help cities, towns, and water and wastewater improvement districts get the funding they need to make a project happen. In addition, we can work with privately-owned water companies who are regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission.  WIFA can fund the planning, design, construction and acquisition of water and wastewater systems. And, while we keep busy with traditional drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects, we are also promoting new initiatives to fund stormwater and recharge projects.

 

We also have a planning and design grant program (up to $35,000 per project) and a 3-year design loan with a flat interest rate of 1%. These programs are designed to help prepare water and wastewater facilities for future infrastructure project construction. 

Why are you a member of AZAGC?
SS: It's important to us to make connections and build relationships with contractors around the state so that we stay current on the latest infrastructure news. Even more importantly, we want contractors to know that we have funding available NOW for many of the communities they may work with.
What awards have you or your company received? 
SS:  We take pride in our programs and the awards that we have received. Our most valued awards come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and include: 
  • Most Innovative and Effective Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program 
  • Outstanding Performance and Achievements in Managing the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds
  • Sustainable Health Protection
How does your company help others in the community?   

SS:  We're very proud to say that over the last 20 years, we have quadrupled the amount of the federal capitalization grants we received from EPA. Because we have bonding authority and leverage the funding we receive,we've turned the $500 million received from EPA into $2 billion for Arizona - over $2 billion have been invested in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure for Arizona's communities. We are proud to manage such a sustainable source of funding to keep Arizona's infrastructure in good condition and preserve the quality of life that we all enjoy.

 

As a result of our strong fiscal management, Arizona ranked number two in the U.S. for federal return on investment among other states managing clean water and drinking water state revolving funds. For every dollar received by EPA, WIFA has provided $3.88 to Arizona communities. We've saved Arizona's communities millions of dollars over the terms of their loans and these savings ultimately benefit the utility ratepayers (all of us). Rates usually increase when water system improvements need to be made, so lower interest rates mean lower project costs and lower user rates. 

What message would you say to folks to be successful in this industry?  

SS:  It's important for people in this industry, especially those dealing with water and wastewater, to weigh the pros and cons of making an investment to improve infrastructure. Utilities really need to think about the cost of deferred maintenance and how much they might be paying for water line repairs, leaks, and inefficient and aging pumps. When it comes to water infrastructure improvements, there is a choice. Utilities can choose to invest today or pay more tomorrow as interest rates continue to rise. We are able to offer very low, attractive interest rates that make a dollar of infrastructure investment go a long way.

What else would you like to share with the members of AGC?   

SS:  Replacing and rehabilitating water infrastructure will cost cities, towns and their residents billions of dollars over the coming decades. According to EPA, $7.4 billion is needed over the next twenty years to improve public drinking water infrastructure in Arizona. An estimated $6.9 billion is needed for Arizona's wastewater pipes and treatment facilities and stormwater management systems. WIFA can help finance these needed improvements.

 

WIFA has a very large amount of funding to offer. We have more than $100 million currently available for financing water infrastructure projects. In 2013, WIFA approved 19 new loans and provided more than $55 million in financial assistance.

 

Some of the many benefits of financing through WIFA include:

  • Financing available year-round - We operate like a regular bank and do not have any application deadlines.
  • Top-notch customer service - We provide friendly and efficient service and assistance through each step of the process.
  • No minimum or maximum loan amounts - WIFA is an excellent source of funding for the state's larger cities and towns as well as small rural areas. The smallest loan amount to date was less than $3,000 and the largest almost $90 million. Last year, more than $14 million was provided to communities serving fewer than 10,000 people.
  • Money is recycled in Arizona - The funds we lend out actually come back (are repaid) and are essentially recycled within Arizona to other communities for their future projects. The money that is paid back goes towards another important project within the state.
  • Incentives for disadvantaged communities - WIFA can offer forgivable principal, longer-term loans and reduced interest rates to disadvantaged communities. In 2013, we provided $2 million in forgivable principal to disadvantaged communities.
Arizona Chapter AGC | 602-252-3926 | administration@azagc.org | http://www.azagc.org
1825 W. Adams
Phoenix, AZ 85007

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